Category Archives: things i love

Jack Henry’s New Dream

Toward the end of his baseball season, Jack Henry played catcher in a few games.

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It was adorable.

After the first time, he said he didn’t really like it. But after a few more tries, he was sold on being a catcher.

I went to garage sales one time early this summer, and found a practically-new kids’ catcher’s mitt for five bucks. I bought it simply because we have 3 baseball players in the house, and I thought when someone was doing pitching practice, whoever was catching could use the mitt.

Honestly, I’ve never much wanted any of the boys to be a catcher. It’s the position with so much potential for impact and concussion (which is why I don’t want them playing football, either!), and it’s bad on your knees. However, if any of our kids are built to be catchers, let’s face it, it’s Jack Henry.

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Well. After the season ended, and Jack Henry made his announcement that he was going to be a catcher, that mitt became his. It’s been on his hand for hours and hours during the last 3 weeks, including the times his brothers have taken out into the side yard to teach him some basic catching skills. Luke and Bennett were surprisingly patient and gave some really good instruction…it was a summer parenting high for me to watch :).

The glove had obviously not been oiled or broken in very well by its previous owner, so the other day I found this note on the counter for Matt.

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I just don’t want to forget the sweet little-boy writing, the passion behind this big ambition, and the time he’s already spending trying to get better. Maybe he won’t end up loving being a catcher, but for now, it’s his dream. And I’m loving being able to watch it.

Telling Time.

Sunday night, after the last of the boys’ baseball games was officially rained out, we hopped in the van to go get frozen custard.

Jack Henry grabbed this book on his way out the door:

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It’s a handmade quiet book that my mom’s beloved sister, my Aunt Dee, made for me when I was really little. It has all sorts of fun little activities, and my boys have all enjoyed it, too, as preschoolers. I thought they’d outgrown it for the most part until the other night, when Jack Henry pointed out the clock page.

JH asked if we’d teach him to tell time, so on the 15-minute drive, we taught him the hour and minute hand, and how to count by 5’s around the clock. Then he wanted me to give him times to put on the clock with its moveable hands, so I did.

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Matt decided to complicate it a bit and taught him quarter after and to and half past the hour…I thought that was too hard for him, but he got it!

It just made me so happy to know that this book is still being used and teaching another generation!

Thank you, Aunt Dee!

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The 3 Piggy Opera

It’s a kindergarten tradition at my boys’ school to have the kindergartners rehearse (for weeks!) and perform the 3 Piggy Opera in the spring. Today was Jack Henry’s big day!

He was playing the role of the Brick Pig, and he nailed it, as you’ll see in this short, amateur video shot by yours truly, who was also foolishly trying to balance her camera in her other hand.

The other boys were NOT interested in solos at this age at all, so it surprised me that he wanted it. I was so proud :)

i love when he spots me in the audience!

i love when he spots me in the audience!

this expression...

this expression…

post-play hug for mom.  and proof that i can barely still lift him!

post-play hug for mom. and proof that i can barely still lift him!

—-

This morning, as he was getting dressed for the play, he started to cry. I asked what was wrong, and told him he looked great.

“It’s just…it’s dance party day* and I don’t want to wear a tie and my Chucks!”

Understood. Change of clothes for after the performance made everything just fine.

*afternoon celebration for good behavior

A Little Catch Up

This is long, I know. But it’s real, and everyone tells me I’m going to want to remember these times, so I know I have to write it down or it’s gone. That said, the last 4 days have looked a little like this:

Thursday
3:30am: I am awakened by strong thunderstorms that eventually turn into a tornado siren going off at…
5:30am: Wake boys and gather everyone in the basement. Turn on TV and realize that the tornado is nowhere near us, and send everyone back to bed. Which is kinda dumb because…
6:15am: it’s time to wake up for the day.
ALL DAY LONG: rotation of storms/hail/quiet for a few hours/more storms, knowing that very strong front is on it’s way around 7pm.
6:45pm: Tornado sirens go off well ahead of the impending storm…it’s still 45 minutes away, but we return to the basement, and stay there through…
8:20pm: seems like it’s over. Our front yard looks like this:

that's black mulch under there.

that’s black mulch under there.


8:30pm: boys are settled in their rooms
8:31pm: siren goes off again. Everyone to the basement.
8:40pm: all clear. Go back to bed.
8:50pm: Jack Henry is scared (for the first time in his life, I think) of all the sirens and storms, and doesn’t want to sleep alone. Executive decision made by me that he will instead go sleep in Bennett’s new room with him in the double bed. This is greeted by B with far less resistance than expected…he’s probably relieved he’s not alone either.
8:51pm: Luke decides he’ll just sleep on the floor in B’s room, too. Everyone, miraculously, just goes to sleep.

Friday
Normal day, really.
7:30pm: pick up coffee for Matt and a latte for me (serious turning point in my life: I can handle drinking a latte now despite my life-long absolute hatred of all things coffee!) at Starbucks drive-thru. Barista calls me sweetheart twice, which makes the 2 boys in my car giggle, and B ask, “seriously, why would he do that?”.
7:45pm: Matt’s mom and dad come into town to join us for part of the weekend! We meet at Luke’s game in the Chesterfield valley. Oh, it’s approximately 40 degrees and windy, making it feel like less than that.
9:50pm: game over. Absolutely frozen despite layers of winter coats, scarves, and blankets.
10:45pm: boys in bed. Time for drinking wine and chatting with Ron and Jo.

Saturday
1:00am: go to bed. Yeah. We stayed up kinda late but it was worth it.
6:20am: alarm goes off. I say to Matt, “Can you even imagine how tired we’ll be when we get to come home tonight at 10:30?”
7:30am: out the door headed to Forest Park for the Read, Right and Run Marathon, in a caravan with B’s friend Ty and his mom. For the first and only time (because it’s K-5), all of our boys are runners! 6000 kids are running (split into 2 groups) this year, and the organization of the event has clearly gotten away from them.
9:45am: boys finally nearing the starting point, so we head to watch near the finish line.
10:15am: we’ve seen Luke and Jack Henry cross the finish line…but where is Bennett?
10:30am: MASS CHAOS is the only way I can think to describe trying to get to the meeting spot for the boys after the race. I finally think to text my friend Robin, who was standing across the street from us, to see if she had seen B cross the finish line…the answer is yes, AND it was before Luke (crazy…I had no idea he could keep pace with Luke!)
11:10am: finally back to the van with everyone we came there with.

my 3 medalists!

my 3 medalists!


11:45am: pick up lunch at Which Wich, get home in bad traffic, eat, change, B opens his birthday gifts from his grandparents, and it’s out the door!
cool gifts from nana jo and papa ron!

cool gifts from nana jo and papa ron!


1:00pm: B and Matt to the ballpark. SIDENOTE: B’s team is comprised of 3 2nd-grade boys and 9 3rd graders, and they are playing in a league of 4th graders this year.
1:30pm: everyone else leaves – Ron, Jo and Luke to the ballpark, JH and me 30 minute away to his practice
2:00pm: B’s 1st game starts, JH’s practice starts
2:10pm: I get a quick jog in before…
3:00pm: pick up JH, head to ballpark
4:00pm: 2nd game starts
6:00pm: Ron and Jo head back to Effingham; we get dinner at BWW with some families from B’s team
8:00pm: game 3 of the day begins. Hard-fought, but the 3rd loss of the day.
10:15pm: home. Everyone to bed…but not before Bennett does his daily push-ups. Not even kidding…this kid just played baseball all day (and ran a short race in the morning), and he won’t let a day lapse without doing his push-ups. That’s dedication, and I wish I could say I was that devoted to keeping myself strong!
10:30pm: that should say “everyone to bed except the mama”, who has baseball pants to scrub and muddy coats to wash.

Sunday
12:15am: I go to bed.
8:30am: L, JH and me to church; Matt and B to the ballpark.
11:00am: all of us at the ballpark. B’s team loses game 4 of their tournament seeding games, making them the 3 seed (of 3 teams).
11:45am: celebrate B’s birthday with his teammates! B is grouchy, sore, and hangry (hungry+angry, it’s a real thing, especially in this family)
12:00pm: lunch at McAlister’s, during which time Matt tells me that Bennett’s baseball pants were filthy BEFORE the game even started because of the warm-up pop flies he’d been throwing him. I could’ve done without that information.
1:00pm: B’s mood has improved significantly after lunch and a couple of stern lectures about family and sacrifice yadda yadda
2:00pm: game 5 of the weekend). Truly, in terms of the tournament, the only game that was a must-win (to get to the championship game. And win they did! They kill it, and Bennett has an awesome game at the plate: 2 huge hits (a single and a double) and 3 RBIs.

i love watching this kid run the bases, and his dad coach him all the way around!

i love watching this kid run the bases, and his dad coach him all the way around!


ready to hit a double

ready to hit a double


batted in by the next batter after his double

batted in by the next batter after his double


4:00pm: championship game starts. They try hard, but lose 11-1, and are so proud of their 2nd place finish, especially in a league where they’re the youngest by far!
5:00pm: I bring JH and L, who are dirty and tired, home from the fields to shower and get ready for a sitter. I’m headed to small group at 6:00pm.

Matt and B come home at 7:30 and crash for the night, I get home at 8:45pm and our whole house is sound asleep by 9:30pm. I’m pretty sure that hasn’t happened since we had a newborn in the house.

Today, these kids are exhausted after their first full baseball weekend of the year, and so are Matt and I! Even having it be his birthday couldn’t get B up and moving very quickly this morning. We’re looking forward to a simple celebration tonight, and more sleep.

All About Bennett (Early Birthday Edition)

1. As a follow-up to this post on his coughing issue: it’s asthma. I’m certain. He’s been on a steroid inhaler for 2+ months now, and we’ve broken out the rescue inhaler twice and used it for a maximum of a week each time when he started a little bit of a cough. No daily coughing anymore! It’s such a relief to feel like we at least know what it is. Now, he can’t stay on this steroid inhaler forever, and will likely go off it after allergy season passes. So it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds after that, but at least now we know.

2. His head wound has healed so beautifully I can’t believe it! Just a perfect pink line all through his eyebrow, which is sure to fade with time. It’ll be slathered in sunscreen all summer, but he always is anyway.

3. On Saturday, Bennett had his first practice baseball game, and during warm-ups, somehow took a ricocheted flyball to the lip. Gotta love getting a call from your friend (and coach’s wife) who’s already at the game, alerting you to the fact that you may see B coming back from the concession stand with a bleeding lip and ice pack, but that she’s checked it and it doesn’t need stitches. Sigh.

4. We decided, rather rashly for our family, to convert the guest bedroom into a bedroom for Bennett, which means all 3 boys have separate rooms now! Bennett was all for this, and he will gladly give up his room and bunk with Jack Henry when we have company, which was the deal we made with him upon making the switch.

Of course, he chose Illini as his theme, which is really cool because we had all kinds of stuff to go in there. Take a little look around!

uncle jake...recognize that old poster??

uncle jake…recognize that old poster??

reading corner

reading corner

inside the closet...my fave ikea storage unit (expedit) with some old illini crates.

inside the closet…my fave ikea storage unit (expedit) with some old illini crates.

view from the door

view from the door

nightstand...hayley made that frame years ago! cutie-pie little illini bros pic from 2008.

nightstand…hayley made that frame years ago! cutie-pie little illini bros pic from 2008.

2 old tees stretched over a canvas on the left; a cross-stitch of the chief that matt's mom made for him in college.

2 old tees stretched over a canvas on the left; a cross-stitch of the chief that matt’s mom made for him in college.

I have to admit, even more than when Luke moved into his own room 2 years ago (very few changes were made to decor), this felt like doing a big kid’s room for the first time. Which made me a tiny bit sad, but it was also really fun that he had ideas and input.

5. As of next Monday, he’ll be 9. NINE. One year from double-digits. Halfway to leaving for college. Birthdays now bring about a sense of urgency in me…there’s still so much I want him to know, and the years to learn those things are just flying by. And when I get reflective about Bennett and who he is and what it’s like to parent him, I get kinda weepy…I don’t know, I just love him so much, and parenting him has been challenging beyond what I envisioned and made me grow and stretch and I’m thankful for that and just hope we’re doing what’s right and good for him (and his brothers, of course) all the time. Does that make any sense?

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He’ll spend the weekend leading up to his birthday playing baseball, and his love for the sport combined with his love for his team makes that the perfect way to celebrate.

2nd season of t-ball ( sadly, i have no pics of him playing his first season!)

2nd season of t-ball ( sadly, i have no pics of him playing his first season!)

he'd just turned 4 here.

he’d just turned 4 here.

There will be lots of little celebrations over the coming days that I’ll be sure to document!

Snow Day Math

1. How many times will someone say “Who farted?” over the course of one day? There are 5 people in the house, and they will all be awake together for approximately 12 hours. It is important to note that the house is 4/5 male.

Round to the nearest 10.

2. Similar to question 1, how many times will one boy angrily say “Duuuuddde!” while playing the card game Ruckus, a game which involves making a subjective call on who spoke for or grabbed what card first?

Again, round to the nearest 10.

3. Multiply your two answers to determine the number of ounces of wine you should have available per supervising adult for after bedtime.

—-

Really, it was a fun day to be stuck at home. We decided this morning to let each family member pick a game to play, so we spent much of the day laughing and hanging out in front of the fireplace, watching it snow significantly less than expected, playing games.

I also managed to curl up on the couch for an hour-long nap, which just never happens, so that was glorious.

And just to record for posterity our one-for-the-record-books year, snow day #10 is tomorrow. We’re officially into the mercy-rule days where the kids only have to make up every other missed day of instruction. Incredible.

A Little Throwback Thursday

At the beginning of it’s life, this little step stool got tons of use from me and my siblings (they each had one, too). I’m sure my aunt and uncle never envisioned their gift getting this much use :).

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i love so much about this picture because it screams late 70’s/early 80’s in the decor…the curtains, the wallpaper, the paneling. my rad shirt and those dangly braided ribbon-bead barrettes.

This step stool has been serving my own little family well since 2004.

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it’s in kinda rough shape…i’ve tried cleaning it many times with various products, but not much helps. the purple has faded to a pretty weird-looking gray, but none of us care!

I love that it’s still being used in our house today, even in its 30-year-old relic condition…you’ll find it in the bathroom on the main floor, and my nieces and nephew and friends’ kids use it to wash their hands now that my boys are all old enough to reach the faucet. The rest of us just grab it out of there as needed for a little boost!

The Pictures

So…long post ahead. For those friends of mine who have lost a parent and sometimes struggle with remembering that they’re still near, this will strike a chord.

Last fall, my dad gave me 5 huge totes full of pictures…like all of the pictures. 1975-present. My whole life and then some. Albums, frames, boxes of loose pictures.

My mom had done a good job of putting pictures in albums until 1990ish, when, for whatever reason, she decided she was done…and she was always trying to get me to organize them for her :). So really, I knew what I was getting into when Dad brought these. Mom still took lots of pictures; they just got put into boxes after that point.

My sister Hayley and I decided to take an evening last fall to start going through the boxes (we made it through 2), just to see what all was in them. In addition to our childhoods in photo form, we found some amazing pictures of both of our parents as children, too.

Part of one box was just an absolute hodge-podge: pictures of my kids, my mom pregnant with me, a few random family Christmas pictures we’d been sent over the years, cousins’ school pictures, and on and on…a good number of them were pictures that had been pulled from albums at one time or another and just never put back*.

There was one pack of pictures, all together in an envelope, in the box that I found a bit curious: my mom’s college friend Paula’s family Christmas pictures. Just her family pictures, 10-15 years’ worth probably. Paula and my mom had been roommates at EIU, and despite living 2+ hours from each other after graduation, kept in touch via letters for years and years. Paula and her husband had 4 beautiful girls that I can remember meeting a few times as a child, but mostly, I remember watching the girls grow up by seeing their Christmas card pictures every year.

It was interesting to me that in this mess of photos, Paula’s were grouped. I mentioned to Hayley that maybe I should send them to her…Hayley thought it was a good idea. And then, for whatever reason, I sat them on my desk and thought about mailing them several times over the next 2 months.

I didn’t know if it would be weird…the adult daughter of your deceased college friend, finding your family pictures? I finally decided to do it, prompted primarily by the idea that if someone sent my family’s pictures to me, I’d be thrilled, and not think it was weird. (Also, I realized that I might not have every year’s Christmas picture of my own family…bummer.)

So a couple of weeks ago, I wrote Paula a little note, stuck it all in an envelope, and sent it on its way.

I cried and cried when I got this email from her earlier this week. Grab a tissue.

To say that you are wonderful and that your Mom is looking over both of us is not enough praise! I got your envelope with all of the pictures that Arlene had saved from past Christmases.

I cleaned out my mom and dad’s pictures three years ago and found some Christmas pictures my mom had saved. So I bought a Christmas photo album and for three years it has just been sitting by my bed. So finally, I thought, “well Mollie is 30 years old, maybe I need to get going on this”.

I finished it by New Years but had several years that were missing and sure enough, they were with your Mom’s collection. Just fascinating isn’t it? Arlene was always helping all of us when we needed it in college. I just looked at those pictures you sent and thought, “my God, she is right here with me on this. She is filling in the blanks that I didn’t have!” Amazing! I cried and smiled the whole time I filled in the missing years.

For real. 5 1/2 years after she died, my mom was able to help someone with something.

I don’t know why Paula’s pictures were all together, and I don’t know why my dad chose last fall to bring me the buckets, but I’ve got to think it’s not coincidence that those things happened the year that Paula put that album together.

The rest of Paula’s email made me vow to do a better job with my boys about talking about what my mom was like. Luke and Bennett have scant few memories of her that are really theirs, and of course, Jack Henry has none, as he was just 9 months old when she passed away. In fact, out of nowhere a couple of times over the past year, he’s had little breakdowns about how it’s just not fair that he didn’t get to know her. Here’s just a little more of the email…

I am so lucky she was in my life. I still cannot believe she is gone. I think of her often and always with a smile. She was such a kind, kind friend…

Sometimes for me, the missing her is kinda far away, and sometimes it’s very near, and all this week it’s been just below the surface. That familiar mixture of it being not fair that she died at 55 and of feeling so thankful that she was my mom and we had the years we did, of “wow, it feels like yesterday” since she died, and “so much has happened since, how can it only be 5 years?”.

I don’t believe in praying to or for the dead, but I very much believe that God blesses us with reminders of those we’ve lost. I’m so thankful that I got a reminder this week.

PS…if you’d like to comment on this, will you do so here, instead of on the Facebook link? I’d love to have all of the comments here, particularly so Paula can see them, too. Thanks, friends.

*I think this justifies me being totally OCD about my albums.

Making Me Smile Today…

It should be noted that a mere 19 minutes after posting this to the blog, the iPad was taken away indefinitely due to how rudely the boys were treating each other. Figures.

1. My boys’ school. It’s just such an amazing place for them to learn and grow. I’m happy I get to be involved there.

2a. The Subway worker thinks it’s weird that I’ll gladly eat an egg white sandwich at lunchtime. She was new…I’ll give her a break for thinking it’s weird AND not knowing how to make a sandwich. She’ll learn.

2b. That an egg white sandwich sounds good to me. A little over a year ago, I wouldn’t have considered that a decent breakfast/lunch choice.

2c. Wearing new jeans.

3. Jack Henry is so pumped for his 100th day celebration tomorrow. He doesn’t know what they’re doing because it’s a surprise, but “It’s going to be good. I can feel it.” was what he told me.

4. Watching Luke and Bennett take on leadership roles at school. Every day, B and his friend Ty walk the kindergartners who are car-riders down to the lobby of the school. Luke has several roles, but his daily bus safety patrol is a favorite.

5. #4 makes me especially happy because, you know, they don’t always show me their best side…I’m the one who gets to constantly ask them to stop talking about farts and remind them 100 times to brush their teeth.

6. JH’s Cardinal-fan-summertime snowman project at school. Adorable.

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7. The boys’ snacktime discussion of how good the special effects are in Back to the Future, “since it was from 1985 and stuff.” Also, that they call each other McFly.

8. Calories left at the end of the day = a glass of wine while sitting on the couch with Matt watching Nashville tonight.

Little Bits

None of these necessitate a post of their own, but they are all little tidbits of daily life around here that I want recorded.

-Whether the team is good or bad, the boys never miss an Illini basketball game. Game time looks like this around here:

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last week’s fireside pizza picnic at game time

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sunday afternoon game

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littlest illini fan likes to have something else to do during the game, but still be in the same room as everyone.

I love it. I love that they’ll always share this bond and memory of their childhood. And that Matt is always alongside them for this.

- Bennett and Jack Henry have long had an oil-and-water relationship for the most part. There are glimpses of happy moments like this one…

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b can be such a sweet and kind teacher/helper.

…but usually, they’re bickering or picking at each other. Like any time they’re together.

They’ve been sharing a room for 18 months now, and surprisingly, there really aren’t any problems with this arrangement. In fact, bedtime is the one time of day that they seem to actually like each other. Almost every night for the past month now, there is a lot of giggling and whispering coming from their room at bedtime.

I’ve admitted on here before that I am not a patient person when bedtime rolls around. Usually, I’m feeling very much like I just want them to go to bed, so that I can have a little bit of quiet before I want to go to bed (yes, that’s selfish. But it’s also true, which is why I’m saying it.).

Lately though, I’ve fought the urge to shush them as they lay there laughing. It’s the only time of day they’re friends. Even though it kind of makes me crazy, I need them to like each other.

So, future Bennett and Jack Henry: I sincerely hope that this helped your relationship. Know that I decided that it’s worth the 15 minutes of lost sleep.

- I love weekends during our baseball off-season. They’re just so chill and fun and we get stuff done around the house. It’s fabulous. Of course, I love baseball season, too. But managing our calendar during that time just gets more than a little crazy.

I will need to see this in writing in April, when I’m wondering if some sense of calm will ever return to our house.

-I love our church. Being part of a community is so important.

Happy Sunday!